Tom Hanks Plays to His Weird Side

The mysterious Mr. Pumpkins and pals
Photo courtesy of NBC

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

Tom Hanks has repeatedly warned us, in a dozen interviews, that he is not just—or always—that Mr. Nice Guy, the holy hybrid of Gary Cooper, Hugh Jackman and Ryan Gosling that he so often portrays in popular talking pictures.

He has often hinted at a dark side, which he will one day, maybe, truly embrace on screen.

Maybe it’s not just alienating fans he worries about, but it might just be too terrible.

But until then we have his truly oddball performance as David S. Pumpkins who returned in a full-length stand-alone animated Halloween special on NBC on Saturday, Oct. 28.

In the original “Saturday Night Live” sketch aired two Halloweens ago, an elevator opens in the Disneyland-style Tower of Terror to reveal a loud character in a loud suit (purchased for $12.99 at Party City) dancing in manic grinning style with two skeletons.

He attempts to scare elevator passengers, but only succeeds in confusing them.

No one, including the Riviera resident himself, seemed entirely clear from the get-go who or what Mr. Pumpkins was—an even-spookier Mr. Bean, maybe, or a loose character from an early Tim Burton such as “Frankenweenie” or “Beetlejuice.” (We are awaiting a sequel, Palisadian Michael Keaton.)

Hanks was initially skeptical about the loonytunes character, David S. (for Simon, no reason) Pumpkins, dismissing the concept as bizarre—and not in a fun way. He also cut the dialogue.

Nor was it an instant hit, social media bait, unlike, say, Kate McKinnon’s recent portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (also known as Kellyanne Conway).

But over two years, Mr. Pumpkins has grown into a cult hero, yes, with millennials.

Party City has remarketed the very orange outfit, this year reporting it a hit second only to president masks.

Microsoft nerd-in-chief Bill Gates has since deployed him to promote his Reddit site.

And it also earned Hanks a Primetime Emmy nomination—not bad for five minutes of airtime.

Beyond a catch phrase—“Any Questions?”—fans say the lack of meaning is, apparently, the meaning of David S. Pumpkins.

So, after two “SNL” sketches, NBC brought Mr. Pumpkins back for his own special.

It is animated, but Hanks appeared at the beginning and voiced the character through a “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”-style adventure.

The ratings are not yet in but if Mr. Pumpkins can maintain such charm over 30 minutes, then, be afraid, be very afraid, it’s probably a big screen offering for Halloween 2019.

“SNL” did something similar with “Wayne’s World,” twice.

If not, then it’s back to the dry-cleaner with that spooky suit for another year.